Resources for Celebrating Advent as a Church

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See also: Introduction to the Church’s Liturgical Calendar (article and handout); Understanding Advent and the Liturgical Calendar (podcast); Q&A on Advent and the Christian Year (article with more resources).

The Season

Advent, which means “Coming,” is the first season of the Church Year, and always begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. Advent is a time to prepare our hearts for Christ’s coming at Christmas, even as we look forward to his second coming, when “he shall come again, with glory, to judge the living and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end” (Nicene Creed). It is a season of solemn, joyful, and reflective prayer, lighting candles, and meditating on Scripture in preparation for Christmas. We join ancient Israel in awaiting the Messiah while simultaneously looking forward to Christ’s second coming/advent.

Color and Decorations

Purple is the color of Advent.

Purple overlay for communion table:

Purple banners:

Lighting of the Candles

Traditionally, candles are lit on each Sunday of Advent, followed by the lighting of the Christ candle on Christmas Day. The candlestick may be placed near the pulpit.

On the first Sunday of Advent, light only the first purple candle. On the second Sunday, light the first and the second purple candle. On the third Sunday, add the pink/rose candle. On the fourth Sunday, add the final purple candle. On Christmas Sunday, light all the candles.

Advent candlestick:

  • Gothic Advent Candlestick – Medium Oak (other options available in catalog)
  • Note: With some candlestick models, the brass sockets are sold separately. Make sure you have sockets and the correctly sized candles.

Purple and Rose Candles:

White Christ Candle:

Prayers

Collects* from the BCP for Advent:

  • First Sunday of Advent — Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
  • Second Sunday of Advent — Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
  • Third Sunday of Advent — Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.
  • Fourth Sunday of Advent — Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

*A collect is a prayer that collects the scattered thoughts of God’s people and directs them towards the same end: God and his works.

Scriptures

Readings from the Revised Common Lectionary (Year C) for the First Sunday of Advent:

  • First reading: Jeremiah 33:14–16
  • Psalm: Psalm 25:1–10
  • Second reading: 1 Thessalonians 3:9–13
  • Gospel: Luke 21:25–36

Readings for the Second Sunday of Advent:

  • First reading: Malachi 3:1–4
  • Psalm: Luke 1:68–79
  • Second reading: Philippians 1:3–11
  • Gospel: Luke 3:1–6

Readings for the Third Sunday of Advent:

  • First reading: Zephaniah 3:14–20
  • Psalm: Isaiah 12:2–6
  • Second reading: Philippians 4:4–7
  • Gospel: Luke 3:7–18

Readings for the Fourth Sunday of Advent:

  • First reading: Micah 5:2–5a
  • Psalm: Luke 1:46b–55 or Psalm 80:1–7
  • Second reading: Hebrews 10:5–10
  • Gospel: Luke 1:39–45 (46–55)

For Years A and B, see Revised Common Lectionary.

Hymns

Examples of fitting hymns for Advent include:

  • “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”
  • “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus”
  • “Soon and Very Soon”
  • “The King is Coming”
  • “Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending”

Check your church’s hymnal for “Advent” and “Second Coming” sections

Preaching

  • Preach from one of the texts in the Lectionary, OT prophecies about Christ, or passages about Christ’s second coming.
  • The preaching should build a sense of anticipation in the church. Focus on the fact that Christ is coming and resist the urge to announce that Christ has come (that’s for Christmas Day and the Christmas season).
  • Example sermon series: Waiting for Christ (the Anointed One). First Sunday of Advent: “Waiting for a Prophet.” Second Sunday: “Waiting for a Priest.” Third Sunday: “Waiting for a King, Part 1.” Fourth Sunday: “Waiting for a King, Part 2.” Christmas Day: “Christ Has Come!”

Creeds and Confessions

Apostles’ Creed — “From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.”

Nicene Creed — “He shall come again, with glory, to judge the living and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.”

25 Articles of Religion, IV — “until he return to judge all men at the last day.”

Prelude Music

Slides

Slides for 16:9 and 4:3 screens can be downloaded below. The text reads, “Advent means ‘coming.’ Advent is a season of preparation for Christ’s coming at Christmas, and for his second coming to judge the living and the dead.”

Recommended Reading

Johnathan Arnold
Johnathan Arnold is a husband, father, and aspiring pastor-theologian, as well as the founder and president of holyjoys.org. You can connect with him on Twitter @jsarnold7.